Three New Judaic Acquisitions

In previous posts I reported on the Museum’s success at last April’s auction of the Steinhardt Judaica Collection. I then wrote about one of the three pieces acquired in that sale. The other two pieces deserve equal attention.

The first is an unusually large, elegantly proportioned and finely wrought silver filigree Spice Container in the form of a tower. Used in the Havdalah (or Separation) ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath, spice containers are among the most ubiquitous of Jewish ceremonial objects. Filled with sweet herbs and spices such as cloves, they are sniffed during the ritual, though like many Jewish traditions, the reason for this is debated. One commonly repeated explanation is that smelling the spices expresses the hope that the sweetness of the Sabbath might carry through the week to come. However, our curatorial consultant Gabriel Goldstein notes an alternative theory: that the fragrant spices “are akin to smelling salts used to invigorate the individual, as at the moment of Havdalah there is a loss of a special extra soul or spirit that inhabits the body during the Sabbath.” Whatever the reason for its use, the spice container traditionally has been an essential part of the Jewish home. Unconstrained by religious law, artisans have interpreted spice containers in a wide variety of fanciful forms.

This spice container conforms to a traditional type of filigreed tower thought to have originated in the German states in the early 17th century and little changed in basic design over the next 300 years. It is thus difficult to accurately date these pieces or to identify their place of origin. At present all that can be said about this particular example is that its high degree of craftsmanship argues for an 18th- or early 19th-century date, and that it was likely made in Poland. Filigree is a metalsmithing technique using wire to create shapes and forms of often dazzling complexity. A special feature of this piece is the selective use of gilding to accent the architecture of the tower. Its acquisition was made possible by Elaine Sandman of Raleigh, who gave it in memory of her parents, Louis and Ethel Elden.

The last acquisition from the Steinhardt sale is a magnificent, over-the-top, gilded silver Torah Shield from 18th-century Germany. Read More »

A Hair-Raising Experience

Despite the frightful sound of this article’s title, the conservation treatment of the NCMA’s Portrait of Sir John Scott, which I finished in November, went quite smoothly. The painting is now refreshed and as near to its former glory as possible. But as frequently happens during a full restoration, little details of the original painting were uncovered that supply interesting insight—in this case, on the intriguing human infatuation with hair.

The conservation treatment removed centuries of accumulated dust and grime as well as layers of old varnish and previous restoration. Cleaning was followed by the application of new varnish and judicious retouching to cover up small paint losses and minor damage. Even the smallest original brushstroke and surviving nuance has become visible again: the rich fabric of the gold and black garments, the luster of the unusual wood-grain floor, the rosy flesh tones, and the sparkle in Sir John’s eyes.

Read More »

Film Still in Focus at NCMA

On the Town, (1949) Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett. (98 min.)

This month I began my 14th year as the NCMA’s film curator. Unlike at other Triangle venues, my programming choices continue to be on film, not digital. Because the studios are strictly limiting access to titles on celluloid, every nearby non-multiplex screen—the Rialto, the Colony, the Carolina Theatre, the Chelsea—has had to convert (at a cost of $50,000 per screen or more) or die.

The Museum has been able to continue as the region’s only all-analog venue, thanks to two 1940s-era projectors that allow us access to studio and archive vintage prints that can only be screened with an honest-to-goodness projectionist (in our case, the peerless Doug Vuncannon, or one of his associates, Kevin Porter and Tina Efird) noting the change-over marks at the corner of the screen and switching seamlessly from one projector to the other. Film archives do not permit their prints to be cut and spliced together into large reels, as theaters without the luxury of a projectionist in the booth must do.  So while some theaters continue to show 35 mm, for example the Colony and the Carolina, they have access only to repertory prints, which can be cut and spliced.  Only the NCMA has the dual projector system that allows us to show archive prints.

Why does this matter? As with any art form, it is a matter of aesthetics. Audiophiles prefer the sound of vinyl to CDs. Lovers of the painted canvas do not think that even the most expensive printed reproduction compares to the original. For me, a film image on the screen is deeper, richer, with the slight flicker as cinema’s heartbeat. I still feel a brief moment of disappointment when the flat, bright digital image flashes on the screen of a commercial theater.

Digital restorations are becoming the norm for even classic films, and some viewers relish a crisp new print without the dust and scratches of celluloid. The sensitivity of the technicians performing this digital magic is crucial, though. The Carolina Theatre recently showed a series of digitally restored James Bond films, the tattered repertory prints having been permanently retired. Some may have marveled at the crisp new image. I, however, could have done without the glorious restoration of the glued edge of Sean Connery’s toupee.

This season we add a new archive to those institutions willing to lend us their valuable prints. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be sending us a print of On the Town. To qualify for this honor, we had to fill out an extensive venue report on the condition of our projection facilities. The endorsement of the other archives from which we borrow—the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film Archive, the Museum of Modern Art Film Archive, the archive at the UNC School of the Arts, and various studio archives—was crucial. Being blacklisted by one venue for mishandling a print results in all the archives withdrawing their borrowing consent.

The time is swiftly approaching when the NCMA will need to convert to digital to be able to show current films and new restorations of classic films. But, as long as it is still an option, the Museum will screen films on film, as they were photographed and as they were meant to be experienced.

Laura Boyes is the NCMA’s film curator and the personality behind www.moviediva.com.

Arms for Art and Other Shenanigans

Earlier in the fall we removed from the American Galleries an imposing marble bust of John C. Calhoun. On my instructions Chief Conservator Bill Brown carefully removed a layer of acrylic paint, powdered talc, and wax that had been applied 20 years ago to mask unsightly yellowish stains covering much of the sculpture’s surface. Stripped of their makeup, the stern features of Calhoun are undeniably blemished. Rather than restore the cosmetic, we recently returned the bust to its pedestal in order to pose the question: what happened? How did this bust of pure white marble become so damaged?

The answer—only recently discovered—leads to an astonishing tale from the Civil War.

When Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina sat for this portrait bust in 1835, he was at the height of his power as the fiery “apostle of States’ Rights.” Following the convention of the time, sculptor Hiram Powers presents Calhoun in the timeless robes of a Roman statesman—in contrast to the drab contemporary garb of senators Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, standing at right. The artist modeled the portrait in clay, from which he made a mold and a plaster cast. The cast would serve as the template for future marble replicas.

By the late 1850s, Powers was long established in Florence, where his studio was a required destination for every American tourist. One visitor was Wharton Jackson Green, a North Carolina planter then on an extended honeymoon. In the studio Green spotted the plaster cast of the Calhoun bust. A devoted admirer of the late senator, Green immediately ordered a marble version for his plantation home in Warren County.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Green was hot to get into the fight and dreamed of being the colonel of his own regiment. However, to win the commission, he would need 600 rifles to equip his troops. To obtain the rifles from the state’s armory, he needed to curry favor with the governor. So Green hatched a scheme that centered on—I kid you not—the loudly publicized donation of the Calhoun bust to the State of North Carolina. As ludicrous as it sounds, Green’s plan worked. With fulsome oratory the bust of Calhoun was installed in the Senate Chamber of the State Capitol, and the next day a grateful governor authorized the release of the rifles. (Alas for Green, the governor died shortly afterward, and his successor gave the rifles to another aspiring colonel.)

Fast forward to April 1865. The Confederacy had collapsed. Union troops under Gen. Sherman had moved into Raleigh. During the first chaotic days of occupation, someone, almost certainly a rogue Union soldier, wandered through the ransacked Capitol and found opportunity to vent his anger. Not long afterward an army surgeon toured the building. As he walked into the Senate Chamber, something caught his eye:

On a shelf behind the speaker’s desk, was a marble bust, on the base of which in relief were the words “John C. Calhoun.” Poised on its crown was an inverted inkstand, whose contents had descended in copious streams over the face. The marks of a brush or cloth charged with the same fluid, had still more besmutted the features. Under the name, in pencil, was written this explanatory clause. “Yes, father of Secessionism.”

This final act of violation gives the story of this bust a peculiar symmetry. At the beginning of North Carolina’s rebellion, this marble bust of the “father of Secessionism” was received with high ceremony into the State Capitol. And at the very end of the rebellion, this same bust was just as ceremonially desecrated, the stern features of the implacable defender of slavery “besmutted”—and quite possibly deliberately blackfaced. Degrading a proud southerner to a minstrel character would have been an outrageously satisfying prank for a northern soldier exhausted by years of war.

Despite early efforts to clean away the ink, the effects of the long-ago vandalism remain. Instead of masking the damage, we have elected to reveal it in all its unsightly splendor, the better to tell a remarkable story. The full story of the Calhoun bust is told in the winter issue of Southern Cultures, available in many bookstores and news outlets and online, along with a related video.

Image:
Hiram Powers, John C. Calhoun (1782–1850), originally modeled 1835, carved 1859, marble, H. 29 ½ in., Presented to the State of North Carolina by Wharton Jackson Green, 1861; transferred to the North Carolina Museum of Art, 1956

Lieut. Col. Wharton J. Green, n.d., handcolored photograph (proof sheet from Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861–’65, vol. 4, 1901, opp. 243). North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh (H.19XX.332.212).

J.A. Mowris, A History of the One Hundred and Seventeenth Regiment, N.Y. Volunteers, (Fourth Oneida), Hartford, 1866, 210. Full text.

Hanukkah Lamp

Just in time for Hanukkah … and Thanksgiving, we have installed in the Judaic Art Gallery a new and imposing acquisition: a 5-foot-high Standing Hanukkah Lamp for a Synagogue, made in Eastern Europe, probably western Ukraine or Poland. It replaces a similar lamp that has been loan to us from New York’s Jewish Museum.

Our lamp was acquired last April at the Sotheby’s auction of the celebrated Judaica Collection of Michael and Judy Steinhardt. As described in an earlier post, we were able to secure enough pledges of support from generous patrons to compete—and compete aggressively—for a number of the principal lots in the sale. In the end we were successful in acquiring three of the most important pieces in the Steinhardt collection, including this large Hanukkah lamp.

Before the Second World War, there were thousands of Jewish synagogues in cities, towns, and villages across Eastern Europe. A feature of many of these often-rustic houses of worship was a large Hanukkah lamp, placed near the front of the sanctuary, close to the Ark. Often made of copper alloy, such lamps typically took the distinctive form of a menorah, the branched candelabrum of the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem. (The Temple Menorah had six branches, but Hanukkah lamps add two more to accommodate the eight lights required for observance of the holiday, plus an additional server light.) The decorative branches of the lamp with alternating blossoms and buds follow the description of the biblical menorah given in Exodus 25:31-40. An interesting, nonbiblical, feature of this lamp are the brackets of stylized flowers that encircle the central shaft.

The base of our lamp has an inscription declaring that “this [lamp] is a donation of Reb Fievel and his wife Esther Yenma, daughter of Reb Zinvel, to the Holy Society Hesed ve-Ernet [5]531 (1771).” The crowned eagle surmounting the lamp is probably a later addition. These lamps often carried royal or imperial emblems as expressions of loyalty. This eagle, perhaps indicative of Polish or Prussian suzerainty, may have replaced an older emblem—a double-headed Russian or Austrian eagle?—when the allegiance of the community changed with the ever-shifting political boundaries. The eagle adds yet another story to a much-storied object.

These synagogue lamps were treasured by the local Jewish communities. Unfortunately, as potent symbols of the Jewish faith and identity, they were ready targets for the Nazis and their anti-Semitic allies. Few examples of this once-ubiquitous ceremonial object survived the war and Holocaust.

So, in this season of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for.

John Coffey

Image:
Eastern European, Standing Hanukkah Lamp for a Synagogue, 18th–19th century, copper alloy: cast, machine-turned, engraved, punched, partly gilded (eagle), Gift of Thomas G. and Louise J. Coffey in memory of H. Arthur Sandman, 2013 (2013.4)

Best College Night Ever!

ECU performs "Go" inspired by the themes of speed and Porsche

ECU performs "Go" inspired by the themes of speed and Porsche

On Friday evening, October 25, the North Carolina Museum of Art had the immense pleasure of welcoming over 500 students to its third annual College Night. The schools participating included Appalachian State, Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, Barton, Davidson, Duke, Elon, East Carolina, Fayetteville State, Johnston Community College, Liberty, Meredith, Mount Olive, N.C. Central, St. Augustine’s, Salem, Shaw, SCAD, UNC–Chapel Hill, UNC–Asheville, University of South Carolina, and Wake Technical Community College.

NCMA College Advisory Council

College Advisory Council

Inspired by Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed, the NCMA’s College Advisory Council worked for over six months to plan programs exploring the concept and medium of speed through art, video, and performance art. College Night 2013 celebrated the college exhibition Accelerate!, which includes work by students from colleges and university programs around the world. Buses and vans from across the state brought students to enjoy the free fry bar, blacklight photo booth, and special exhibitions while listening to a DJ set by SPCLGST and seeing performances by East Carolina University, Johnston Community College, North Carolina Central University, and N.C. State University.

NCCU Juke Squad performs at College Night

NCCU's Juke Squad performs at College Night

Because many college students are immersed in digital technology, we experimented with social media to engage visitor response in real time. Students used #fastART when tweeting or posting photographs before and during the event. These are collected through Storify, so you can see the event unfold through the eyes of the participants.

Thanks to each guest who attended this wonderful evening. We look forward to many more college events. In the meantime, enjoy these images from College Night 2013.

The Last Sleep

“Hello, Boils and Ghouls!” Those of you who tuned in to Tales from the Crypt in the late 1980s or early 1990s will remember the Crypt Keeper’s gruesome puns. Each episode began with a tracking shot through a decrepit Victorian mansion and down into the Crypt Keeper’s dungeon, where the cackling corpse would bring out objects connected with his scary stories. (Some episodes of the series were filmed in Britain, and “keepers,” by coincidence, are what curators are sometimes called in the United Kingdom.) For Halloween I began thinking about what kind of macabre melodrama the “keepers” here might present from our own crypt (I mean Museum storage).

George Cochran Lambdin’s The Last Sleep (circa 1858) has not been on view for many years because of condition issues, though it was widely admired in the 19th century. In it the artist stages a morbidly theatrical tale of woe. The large painting (nearly five feet wide) shows a distraught husband at the deathbed of his wife. Given the date, the young woman likely died from consumption or from complications associated with childbirth. The darkened chamber is carefully composed with objects emblematic of or associated with death: the white flowers by her bedside, the lone bloom that presumably fell from her dying hand onto the quilted coverlet, the ornamental statuette of an angel attached to the wall but seeming to hover protectively over the dead woman.

The Last Sleep was one of Lambdin’s great exhibition pictures and traveled extensively in the late 19th century, making appearances in Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo, and New Haven. It was among the American paintings featured at 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris. When The Last Sleep made its first appearance at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1858, critics raved about the artist’s skill; the reviewer for The Crayon wrote, “For power of imagination, and as an example of true artistic genius … this picture is, in our opinion, unsurpassed by any work of the day.”

Themes of death or anticipated death were popular in Victorian art and literature, particularly when in service of some moral or spiritual end. Lambdin took care to emphasize sentiment in his picture, elevating it above assemblages of “material horrors” (as The Crayon noted when the picture was shown at the National Academy of Design the following year). After one early review suggested that death was not sufficiently “sanctified” in Lambdin’s picture, he changed the title from The Dead Wife to the more poetic The Last Sleep. His ploy was successful, and the notion of final slumber offered a conceptual balm to future critics.

In exhibitions the artist sometimes included the final stanza of Tennyson’s “The Deserted House” (1830) alongside the catalogue entry for The Last Sleep:

Life and thought
Here no longer dwell
But in a city glorious
A great and distant city they have bought
A mansion incorruptible.

(You can read the full poem here.)

Notably, Lambdin omitted the poem’s final line: “Would they could have stayed with us!”

Reviewers tended to focus on the feeling of loss in the picture, imagining the grief of the distraught husband. French critic Paul Mantz imagined the events leading up to this scene, noting that the anguished husband appears “almost dead himself.” The American writer Henry Tuckerman went further in projecting his own emotions: “The blinds are drawn; the fair youthful form lies stilled in death, and the husband, utterly crushed with grief, has flung himself across the bed. His face is not seen, but we can image its pallor, even as in fancy we can hear the choking sobs with which his bosom heaves.”

Few reviewers commented on the countenance of the dead wife, though to me she seems the star of this Victorian melodrama. Illuminated by sunlight from the outer room, her face is the focal point of our attention. Her husband appears almost as a shadow. And above, the ghostly angel hovers … and waits.

From the keepers here—have a happy Halloween!

Image:

George Cochran Lambdin, The Last Sleep, circa 1858. oil on canvas, 40 x 54 ¾ in., Gift of Peter A. Vogt

A New Frontier for Museums

This summer, Michelle Harrell (NCMA coordinator of teen and college programs) and I attended the Distance Learning Summit at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. We gathered with over 40 other art museum educators from across the country who are engaged specifically in distance learning programs such as videoconferencing with schools, professional development for teachers, or online courses like the ones we offer.

A colorful visual representation of our case study. Photo courtesy Emily Kotecki

The NCMA is currently the only museum in the country developing online courses in conjunction with a state virtual school. We offer semesterlong, for-credit high school courses using art in our collection as a catalyst for learning about topics such as game design, fashion, and videography. We have presented our project at state and national conferences, but until this summer never had the opportunity to meet others in this niche of art museum education.

Museums are creating distance learning programs as a way to reach more visitors and rethink the way people can interact with and learn from museum objects. At the conference we heard case studies from Google Art Project and smARThistory, as well as how the Metropolitan Museum of Art uses webinars and blended learning for teacher professional development. We listened to educators from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum discuss their videoconferencing programs; they use this technology to reach audiences around the globe! We also had an opportunity to share our program.

Sitting in a space with cathedral ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the manmade waterways of the Crystal Bridges Museum, we spent three intense days paving the path to the future for art museums and distance learning. We worked in small groups, engaged in large-group discussion, and even presented ideas through song and dance.

An immediate action step we decided on as a group was to share our findings and experiences with our institution (Check!). The next is for the Crystal Bridges Museum to host a series of Google Hangouts with participating museums before launching a Web site that would include research on art museum distance learning. That second step is around the corner as Michelle and I participate in a live webinar with six other institutions on Wednesday October 16. Be part of the conversation as we discuss our project and the future of distance learning in art museums. Moderators will be taking questions, so we can talk with those listening or watching from around the world.

—Emily Kotecki is associate coordinator of teen and college programs at the NCMA.

The Cars That Got Away

As NCMA Cinema revs up for the Car Crazy series, I’m already anticipating the many audience comments about films that should have been included. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a long list of suggestions, nor have I ever watched so many films in preparation. Here are some ideas for curating your own series at home, if you just can’t get enough.

First to go were films we’ve already shown at the NCMA: Detour, Thunder Road, The Italian Job (the old one), Breathless, Back to the Future, It Happened One Night, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Talladega Nights. I didn’t want the series to be entirely about death by automobile, either, so that eliminated another raft of titles. Stunt driving often defines the action movie: the Bournes, Fast and Furious, The Italian Job (the new one) Ronin. Exciting chases, but too monotonous to show week after week.

NCMA Cinema is a 35 mm house, showing archival prints on film. I could not get a print of A Man and a Woman, a cool French new wavy romance/race film directed by Claude Lelouch (with that song you can’t stop singing) or Gun Crazy, which has a thrilling bank robbery shot from inside the getaway car. It’s currently touring with the UCLA Festival of Preservation, so we may screen it another time.

Many of the racing movies have the exact same plot—Le Mans, Grand Prix, Days of Thunder—with only the cars and leading men changed; we’re showing The Crowd Roars with James Cagney. Grand Prix was my favorite of the also-rans, but it is a Cinerama movie (super wide screen), three hours long, with an overture, intermission, and exit music. We could never do it justice.

James Bond films are famous for their motor cars, but the Carolina Theatre just finished a superb Bond retrospective, so it seemed superfluous. May I recommend the fascinating overview of Bond cars on the Top Gear50 Years of Bond Cars” special?

Of the ’70s existential “the journey is more important than the destination” films, we’ll be showing Two-Lane Blacktop. Other prime candidates include Vanishing Point (1971), The Driver (1978) with Ryan O’Neal (a clear inspiration for the Ryan Gosling Drive), and The Mechanic (1972) with Charles Bronson, which has a chase along Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

I watched the original The Fast and the Furious from 1954, which has Dorothy Malone street-racing a Jaguar, and the original Gone in 60 Seconds from 1975.  I watched Thelma and Louise, but it felt a little dated (discuss) and The Love Bug (1968), which has a groovy 1960s San Francisco vibe, but it’s a kids movie, even though Herbie drives Bullitt’s mean streets.

I even watched Bikini Beach, because it contained custom cars by the designer of the Porsche in which James Dean died. Bikini Beach is fascinating, because it is filled with disdain for British Invasion music, which would soon put Frankie Avalon out of business. Yet he plays his own rival, the Potato Bug, a Beatles-esque singer in a double role, and he’s much funnier than when he’s playing himself.

If you wonder which cars you are seeing in any film, try the Internet Movie Car Data Base, where even the background vehicles are identified.

Fasten your seat belts—we’re in for quite a season. See you at the movies!

Laura Boyes is film curator at the NCMA. The Car Crazy film series is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed.


Medusa Mystery

Looking closely at Eugene Berman’s paintings is like playing a memory game, as one critic noted in 1947. Born in Russia, Berman sought to create poetic art, filled with forms from the past. Before emigrating to the U.S. on the eve of the Second World War, he traveled extensively in Europe, sketching Italianate architecture and objects in museum collections. Berman filtered the sketches through his memory, creating loose associations between forms. The result comes across as a postapocalyptic dreamscape, but one that seems familiar. Haven’t I seen that woman somewhere before? Or those ruins?

Take, for example, Sunset (Medusa) (1945), on view in the American Galleries of the Museum’s West Building. The crouching figure may have come out of Berman’s study of Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholia I. Or the woman could depict a dancer in a deep curtsy. Or both. Berman was renowned for his set and costume designs for ballet and opera, and the setting of the painting is certainly stagelike.

Eugene Berman, Sunset (Medusa), 1945, oil on canvas, 57 5/8 x 45 in., Gift of the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) in honor of Beth Cummings Paschal

Berman painted Sunset (Medusa) while living in Los Angeles and modeled the figure on his future wife, the actress Ona Munson. A petite blonde, Munson often used wigs and padding to transform her appearance on the silver screen. In Sunset (Medusa) Berman chose to depict Munson with the same fiery locks she donned as redhead Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind (1939). Personally, I think it’s a shame that he didn’t imitate the serpentine black curls from her role as “Mother” Gin Sling in The Shanghai Gesture (1941). (Could this be where Berman picked up the idea of Medusa?)

Actress Ona Munson as “Mother” Gin Sling in The Shanghai Gesture (1941)


Berman painted images of Medusa throughout the early 1940s. Medusa’s Corner (1943) is a clear forerunner to the painting at the NCMA, which Berman continued to finesse. He also sketched Munson as Medusa on several occasions and even transferred her face onto small assemblages of seashells and coral.

These, I think, are part of the key to unlocking the mystery of Berman’s Medusa. In mythology the gorgon was famous for turning men to stone with her gaze. Few know, however, that she once held the same power over plants. According to Ovid, Perseus—the hero who beheaded Medusa—laid the gorgon’s head on a bed of seaweed. The seaweed then hardened and turned to coral.

Looking closely at Sunset (Medusa), it appears that the figure is holding coral in her hands as she takes her final bow. The architectural setting, too, appears pitted and porous like coral. Could it be that Medusa has petrified the landscape?

Berman often used mythology as a framework to comment on the violence of Second World War without depicting it directly. Though the landscapes he painted were “bullet-ridden,” they never included guns, bombs, or tanks. Medusa may have stood in for these artifacts of destruction. With her power she embodied a cataclysmic force capable of transforming the European landscape into hardened ruins.

One reason I wanted to write this blog post was to get more people involved in the “memory game.” Berman never intended his paintings to have clear meanings, though several elements in Sunset (Medusa) suggest associations. Could that object on the wall be Perseus’s mirrorlike shield? Perhaps the menacing shadow is the hero’s face in profile as he approaches, ready to slay the gorgon? Could Medusa’s impending death be the “sunset” in the title?

Let the games begin …

Laura Fravel, GSK Curatorial Fellow

Hear more about Laura Fravel’s research at Lunch and Lecture: Hollywood’s Golden Age and the NCMA, Friday, October 4, at 11 am.